by Lori Seaborg
Published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, 2005
It seems that everywhere you go, there is someone speaking of blogging and of blogs. In newspapers, online, and on television, you have been hearing new words like “bloggers” and the “blogosphere.” There are literally millions of blogs and thousands of new ones are started up daily.
What Is a Blog?
A blog (or, weblog) is a web page that is frequently updated. Most blogs are made up of text and links to other websites. The posts are listed in reverse chronological order (the newest post being first). Older posts are rolled into archive pages, where they may be viewed later.
Blogs often include a title for the webpage, titles for each post, comments from readers, archives, and links to other blogs.
Why Would Someone Want to Blog?
You may want to blog to write an online diary about your daily life. Or you may want to blog because you have something definite to say and nobody in your real life listens to you. You also may blog if you have an opinion on news events, but the local paper doesn’t print your Letter to the Editor on the front page, as you’d like. Some bloggers will blog to give advice to others.
Business owners are starting to blog to promote their businesses; journalists are blogging to keep readership interested; writers are blogging to promote their books and to improve their writing; soldiers are blogging to keep family updated and to keep people interested in the war.
There is an endless list of reasons to blog.
All types of people blog. Children, teachers, moms, and even heads of state and celebrities blog. Blogging has become important to many businesses. Blogging has also become a type of renegade journalism, so much so that many major newspapers and magazines now have blogs on their websites. Universities have recently added blogging courses to their journalism degrees.
Why Are Blogs Important?
Bloggers are credited for breaking some of the most important news events in the past
couple of years. Blogs are important because:
- They allow you to be an active participant in the news; not passive. With a blog, you can write a “Letter to the Editor” that will be published and that will likely be read by many more people than would read your letter in your local newspaper.
- Blogs allow you to learn from the experts in a subject. If you are an expert in a certain field, you should blog about it! Mainstream journalism has begun recognizing many bloggers as experts in their field.
- Blogging allows you to write as subjectively, as biased, and as partisan as you wish. As a blogger, you do not have to be politically correct or unbiased. Readers benefit from blogs because they have more access to the truth since the writer is able to write freely on a subject.
What Would Someone Blog?
Some blogs are just journals or diaries, while others are topical. Many of the most widely read blogs are political. The blogs are Homeschoolblogger.com all have “homeschooling” in common, but their subtopics vary. Some of these blogs are focused on the Classical approach to homeschooling. Other blogs are focused on home business or homemaking while keeping the main topic of “homeschooling” in mind.
Blogging provides readers with access to experts, which is one of the reasons that blogging is so popular. If you know a lot about a subject, and if you are passionate about that subject, blog about it and soon you will have a group of readers and be labeled as the Internet expert on that subject.
Who Reads Blogs?
Unless it is a private blog, anyone with Internet access may read a blog. That includes bosses and mothers. That also includes people who might like to send you spam or steal your identity. Keep this in mind, but don’t be scared off from blogging because of it.
Most often, your readers will not be spammers or thieves (or bosses). Usually, your readers will come through other blogs that link to your blog, or through the comments that you left on other blogs.
A private blog may be set up for a family blog, one that is personal in nature, or a blog for which you want to control the subscription. To read a private blog, one must be a member of that blog.
“Blog,” “Blogosphere,” “Vlog,” and Other Strange Words
Since blogging is such a new phenomenon, new words are being invented for it almost daily. Here are a few of the most common words you’ll see:
A blog that is made up of audio sound bites. Also called “podcasting,” if the audioblog is available in RSS.
A webpage that is frequently updated and archived, with text, photos or video and/or links. A.k.a. weblog
One who blogs
To visit one blog after another through links on each weblog
The community of blogs on the Internet
A list of links on a blog. These links are also called “friends” lists, or “links” lists. A reciprocal blogroll is one in which only those sites linking to your blog are listed. A blogroll may be done manually through the HTML in your blog, or it may be done through a service.
A weekly list of the latest articles from certain blogs. The Carnival is often topical “Christian Carnival,” “Carnival of all Carnivals,” etc.). You must register to be included in the Carnival of your choice and you must submit your best post for each week that you want to be included in the Carnival. The Carnival “travels” to a different blog each week.
Readers of your blog may post comments on each of your blog posts. Their comments are readable to anyone who has access to your blog. Others may visit the links that your commenters leave. You have the ability to disable comments and comment reading if desired.
Blog: A blog that is written by a group of people, usually of like minds. An example of a group blog would be a blog on Classical Homeschooling, with five different bloggers writing from their viewpoint. A group blog may have assigned days for each of their writers, or the writers may post randomly.
A list of other blogs and other websites that you post on your blog. You will only want to include links that may be of interest to your readers.
Tracking: A method of finding out which blogs have linked back to yours.
A blog that discusses the military (if written by a soldier, this is often called a Soldier Blog)
A permanent link to a specific post. Without permalinks, the reader would only be able to visit your weblog’s homepage, which is continually changing. Permalinks make it easier to find specific posts.
A blog made up primarily of photos.
An entry that you have placed (“posted”)on your weblog. This may be a piece of text or a photo, audio, or video segment.
A notification that you receive if someone has linked to your blog post. You will only receive a ping if you have enabled trackback, and if the site linking to you is also using trackback.
Real Simple Syndication: This allows you to syndicate your blog material, similar to how comic strip owners syndicate their material to newspapers. But with blogs, usually, only a snip of the blog post is syndicated, with a permalink back to your blog.
Many bloggers prefer to use trackback instead of comments. If they want to write about your post, they may do so on their own blog. Instead of using a permalink, the blogger will use trackback, so that you will receive a ping, which lets you know that your site has been mentioned and linked.
(video blog): A blog made up of video segments.
Blogs that discuss war and the war against terrorism.
Another name for “blog.”
What Should I Do BEFORE Starting a Blog?
If you want to have more than just a blog of your random thoughts, you need to think about a few things before beginning your blog.
- Read blogs…lots of them! Read the top blogs, and read blogs that are in the topic of your interest.
- Think about your topic and the focus of your blog. The more specific, the better.
- What will your writing style be?
- Choose your blog name.
- Choose the look of your blog site.
What Should I Name My Blog?
If you are a writer or a speaker and want to promote your name, you may wish to name your blog with your real name. Otherwise, just choose a name that fits your content. Try to pick a name that others can easily remember.
How Much Control Do I Have with My Blog?
Your blog’s content is owned by you. You may edit and delete your posts at any time. You also have the control to delete the comments left on your blog by readers.
What Do I Blog About?
Choose a topic that you are intensely interested in, and that you could write on for a long period of time. Instead of choosing a broad topic like “Homeschooling,” consider a subtopic, such as “Unschooling,” or “Homeschool Field Trips.” The more specific your topic, the more you will be seen as the expert in that area.
How Often Do I Have to Post?
You may post as often or as little as you like, but if you want to keep readers coming to your blog, then you need to post often. The most popular blogs post several times a day, but many bloggers post just several times per week.
How Will I Know If I Have Any Readers?
Some of your readers will leave a comment on your blog, or may even email you. But most of your readers will not comment or write to you. You will want to keep track of your visitors with a “counter.”
How Can My Readers Communicate With Me?
If you have comments enabled, your readers will be able to leave comments for you to read at the end of each post on your blog. Many times, these comments become just as interesting as the blog itself.
If you have placed an email link on your blog, your readers may also email you.
How Can I Improve My Blog?
There are a few things you can do to improve your blog and get more readers:
- Focus on the Content: The best way to improve your blog is to focus on the content of your writing rather than the fancy ways you can add graphics. Your blog will be remembered because of its content. It will be avoided because of its slow download due to graphics.
- Stay on Topic: If your blog is political, don’t post about what happened when you walked the dog last night unless you can somehow link it to a recent political event. Your readers visit you for the topic that you have been blogging on. They do not want to read your ramblings unless yours is established as a rambling blog.
- Post Short Blogs: Readers want to read quickly. Keep your blog posts short.
- Edit Your Writing: Before posting, look carefully at your blog for typos and misspellings.
- Use Headlines and Subtitles: You may not prefer to use both headlines and subtitles, but consider using one or the other. When others mention your blog on their own, it helps them to be able to name your post.
- Use Paragraphs. Cut your blog post into paragraphs containing 4-5 sentences each. Your readers’ eyes will be blessed, and you’ll gain more readers with this simple thing.
- Add Photos or Other Graphics to Your Blog: Add a photo or a graphic or a
video or audio file now and then just to keep your blog interesting and to break up the text. Remember, you are focusing on the content of your blog, so do not add too many photos or graphics. Some of your readers are still on slow dial-up Internet connections.
How Do I Promote My Blog?
There are a few things you can do to bring more readers to your blog:
- Blog! Your readers want to read new posts from you. If your readers keep coming to your blog only to see old posts, they will leave in frustration and move on to a more active blog.
- Leave comments on other blogs that are similar to your own. If you are blogging on “homeschool and home business,” then visit fellow “homeschool” bloggers and fellow “home business” bloggers. Leave comments on their blogs with a link to your own blog. Make sure your comments are substantial so the other readers will want to check out your blog.
- Add your blog to your signature in emails (unless you are trying to hide your blog from family members!). Add it to your business cards, mention it in your online newsletter, and promote it on your website.
Can I Make Money with My Blog?
Only a very few bloggers are making decent money off their blogs. Some bloggers make a few dollars by accepting ads. Most bloggers make no money off their blog.
How Do I Maintain My Blog?
You can post to your blog without visiting the main site, but visit your blog’s homepage regularly anyway. While at your blog’s homepage, look for links that no longer work and for photos that are no longer showing up. Also, look at your text to see that it looks readable. Your blog should be similar to a newspaper column, with short, easy-to-read paragraphs and occasional photographs or graphics.
Are There Any Blogging Netiquette Rules I Should Follow?
So far, blogging is a free, wide-open field. You can post what you want, how you want, and when you want. But if you don’t follow the normal “netiquette” rules such as using short paragraphs and not using foul language, you will reduce your readership. If you want more readers, think of your blog as a magazine or a newspaper for which you are the sole writer and editor. Only post those things that you, as an editor, would allow.
Blogging is one of the most exciting happenings of the 21st century. It gives all of us a voice, one that we can share with others who are like-minded. It is a free and easy way to get our advice and opinions out to the world.
Welcome to the Blogosphere!